Showcasing bluff forests and deep ravines above Lake Talquin – a dammed reservoir in the Ochlockonee River west of Tallahassee – the Fort Braden Trails offer enough hiking for a weekend in the woods.
Built and maintained by Florida Trail Association volunteers, the trail system includes the Central, East, and West Loops, all of which qualify for the Florida State Forests Trailwalker program. The three hiking loops provide a variety of options; the East Loop is the shortest walk. Trails wind through a shady hardwood forest of southern magnolia, white oak, American holly, and beech along sloping clay hills, where small but vigorous streams cascade downhill towards Lake Talquin.
The open understory makes it easy to see wildlife, especially deer, and to allow you to sneak a peek at the lake long before the trail actually approaches it. The trail junctions are well marked with signs, and bright pink paint adorns footpath perils such as nasty roots. You may enjoy one of the two primitive campsites with great views of Lake Talquin, each with fire rings and logs for sitting. Most of the hardwood forest is southern magnolia, so be sure to visit in late May or June, when the fragrance of magnolia blossoms fills the air. In late April, blueberry bushes drip with fruit.
Length: 3.3, 4.2, or 11 miles.
Lat-Long: 30.440433, -84.495200
Fees / Permits: Florida State Forest usage fees
Bug factor: low to moderate
Restroom: At the trailhead
Lake Talquin State Forest (850-488-1871), 865 Geddie Rd, Tallahassee FL 32304
Drive 8.5 miles west of Capital Cir on SR 20 to the entrance on the north side of the road.
There is a day use fee payable at self-pay station at entrance. If you plan to backpack the trail, fill out the form at the self-pay station and include appropriate payment for your camping permit. A basic map is available at the kiosk, and a detailed backpacking map is available from the Florida Trail Association.
At each campsite, you must camp within the area delineated by trees with white bands. A covered picnic pavilion with barbecue grill adjoins the parking area. There are also biking trails and equestrian trails.